They are running out of ways to describe this TCU football season.
“Been an interesting year, for sure,” coach Gary Patterson said.
He smiled at the assembled media waiting for him after the Horned Frogs’ 23-17 victory Saturday against Kansas in a game in which they were favored by 43 points.
“On to Oklahoma. See if everybody gets healthy.”
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“Ask me again Friday.”
This group will battle. They’ll play hard in the next two weeks. So don’t get any indication that I’m all of a sudden throwing in the towel, because that’s not going to happen.
TCU coach Gary Patterson
The grin on his face said it all — his team had just lost its Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, played without three starting offensive linemen, had to go to its third-string quarterback, got only one catch from its Biletnikoff Award candidate receiver, lost another defensive player and even the deep snapper — yet managed to win again.
Terrell Lathan’s sack on fourth down stopped the final Kansas threat, and TCU recovered from the disappointment of losing its unbeaten season last week. The Horned Frogs (9-1, 6-1) remain in the hunt for the Big 12 championship, however many of them are left standing.
“I don’t know how these next two weeks will go, because we’re pretty banged up,” Patterson said. “We’ve had our share of bangs. But it’s OK. This group will battle. They’ll play hard in the next two weeks. So don’t get any indication that I’m all of a sudden throwing in the towel, because that’s not going to happen.”
No, but when he and the Frogs enter the ring again, it could be without quarterback Trevone Boykin, who suffered an ankle injury on the second snap of the game when he was tackled by Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. It was the first of five injuries that the Frogs would suffer, bringing their total of players who have missed a game or part of a game this season to 23.
TCU has had at least 23 players miss a game or part of a game this year because of injury, including five that were hurt in the game on Saturday.
If it’s a high-ankle sprain, it could be weeks before Boykin is ready to play. That would mean the TCU offense would fall into the hands of either senior Bram Kohlhausen, the primary backup who was benched after an ineffective second quarter, or redshirt freshman Foster Sawyer, who led three scoring drives in the second half.
Sawyer’s pass over the middle to running back Shaun Nixon turned into a 42-yard touchdown play for a 20-10 lead in the third quarter.
“I’m really proud of him,” running back Aaron Green said of Sawyer, the second-rated quarterback recruit in the state two years ago out of Fort Worth All Saints. “I think that was the last thing in his mind that he was going to get in the game. He went in there, threw a nice ball to Shaun, now we’re 9-1.”
The touchdown was Sawyer’s only completion. He went 1 for 7. Kohlhausen was 13 for 19 for 112 yards, but threw an interception that may have sent him to the sideline.
“He can just see the field better; he’s a lot taller,” Patterson said of Sawyer, who replaced Kohlhausen to start the third quarter. “Came in, ran the ball. He made some mistakes. He should have kept the ball on the one last read on the last drive. Young-guy mistakes. He can do better.”
Green ran for a career-best 177 yards behind a line missing left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai and right guard Brady Foltz, who were ruled out before the game, and that lost left guard Jamelle Naff in the second half.
“We’ve got to go out there and block for whoever it is,” center Joey Hunt said. “We’ve got to be able to protect the quarterback, and we’ve got to be able to run the ball. It didn’t affect that. We need to go out and score points.”
Nixon’s catch, KaVontae Turpin’s 49-yard punt return for a touchdown and three field goals from Jaden Oberkrom accounted for all the scoring for an offense that came in averaging 46.7 points.
I don’t think you ever really imagine or think that a season will go this way. You just have to be mentally strong and be prepared for it.
TCU running back Aaron Green
“I don’t think you ever really imagine or think that a season will go this way,” said Green, whose 30 carries were the most for a TCU player since Joseph Turner’s 33 at San Diego State in 2007. “You just have to be mentally strong and be prepared for it. I can’t even tell you how many people we have out. The young guys are stepping up. Shaun Nixon. I know you see KaVontae Turpin. That’s just what we do. The next guy steps up.”
How else to explain it? Patterson has run out of ways.
“Sometimes you just don’t have any answers except, ‘This is what it is,’ ” he said. “Everything that’s happened to us, and we’re 9-1. Most people would be maybe have won three ballgames. But these guys have fought through everything this year.”